These sweet candy disks have added whimsy, charm, and a touch of nostalgia to gingerbread houses for over fifty years. In decades past, I would buy an entire box of the rolls down at Eckerds Drugs each December. At some point though, the rolls of candy disappeared from my local shops.
Why not make my own? I did.
It was so straightforward, simple, and easy that I’ve done so every year since.
Candy wafers are a snap to make!
You’ll need four ingredients: powdered sugar, cornstarch, unflavored powdered gelatin, and water. Go one step further and add flavoring oils to change a simple roof tile into a tasty treat. Peppermint is my favorite.
Recipe for Candy Wafer Dough
2 lbs powdered sugar
1 cup cornstarch
1 packet powdered, unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup hot water
a few drops of flavoring oil (optional) such as Lorann Peppermint Oil
Put 1/2 cup hot water in a small glass bowl. Sprinkle the packet of powdered gelatin over the top of the water. Let this sit for a few minutes to allow the gelatin to bloom. Use a small silicone spatula to stir and smear the remaining gelatin into the water. Microwave the bowl for ten seconds at a time if you need heat to help the process.
Pour the entire 2 pound bag of powdered sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix in one cup of cornstarch.
Run your stand mixer on the lowest speed, and slowly pour in the gelatin mixture. Use the spatula to scrape the last bit of gel out so you use absolutely all of it. Your mixer will start to struggle — turn it off. Notice that I used the paddle attachment, but I strongly recommend using the dough hook if you have one. Briefly turn the mixer to medium speed to create a rough dough.
There are two ways to keep the dough from sticking to the counter and your hands …. a dusting of cornstarch or thin film of white vegetable shortening. Before you remove the sugar dough, use one hand to spread a thin layer of Crisco over your counter. Leave the shortening and cornstarch standing by.
If you used the dough hook, by all means let your mixer do the kneeding. Otherwise, use a plastic scraper or the edge of a plastic spatula to scrape the dough out of the bowl and off the paddle. Drop the dough onto the greased counter. Grease your other hand, then knead the dough until it’s smooth and elastic. Add a little cornstarch if it’s too loose and a little water if it’s too stiff. Use the scraper to remove any dough that sticks to the counter.
This is the dough before kneading. See how rough it looks?
Here’s the dough after kneading. Nice and smooth.
Form the dough into a ball and cover it with a thin film of shortening. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap. Air causes this dough to crust almost immediately. The shortening and plastic together form a double layer of protection.
Ideally, you should let the dough rest overnight.
But look at your counter! Why make the same mess twice? I cheat a little and color it immediately.
Color the Dough
Make a thick log of dough and slice it into six sections.
Remove the largest section, cover it with a thin layer of shortening, and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. This will be your white dough. Cover the other sections tightly until you’re ready to color each one.
Starting with yellow and moving towards the darker colors, color sections yellow, orange, pink, green, and purple. If you can locate a roll of genuine Necco Wafers, use them to match the colors. I found this roll at a Fleet Farm in Wisconsin, and carted it 1300 miles home in my suitcase.
Cover the work surface and your hands with a thin layer of shortening. Use a toothpick to add paste food color to the dough and knead it in. Add small amounts of cornstarch to help keep the dough from sticking. Use a dough scraper or the edge of a pancake spatula to scrape the dough off the counter.
As you finish each color, cover the ball of dough with a thin layer of shortening, and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. Wipe down the counter and scraper and wash your hands between each color.
*** Please note: the colors will fade as the dough dries. ***
***Make the dough several shades darker than you need for your finished wafer.***
This seems especially true for pink. The photo below compares the color of the damp ball of dough to the dried wafer.
On the other hand, orange seems not to lighten much at all so color your dough the almost same shade as a finished wafer.
Cut the Candy Wafers
Dust your surface lightly with cornstarch.
Start out with a ball of dough the size of a large egg. Roll it out to wafer candy thickness. As you roll and cut, you’ll see how quickly the dough crusts. In the photo below I had time to cut all eleven pink circles before the dough crusted.
Press the round cutter down, then press and turn the cutter to make a clean cut. As a bonus, rotating the cutter often lifts the wafer up — you can just tap the cutter to release the dough.
Strange as it sounds, I find it easier to push the discs up through the top of the cutter rather than out the bottom. I might cut two or three discs before tipping the cutter and letting the wafers fall out into my hand.
Transfer the discs onto a waxed paper covered cookie sheet. Make sure you’ve got them right-side up. The right side has a nicely rounded edge while the underside has a less appealing sharp edge.
Let the Candy Wafers Dry
Drying time depends on the relative humidity in your house. I live in a tropical climate, so I always place the candy wafers under the business end of a fan; ceiling or portable.
Look at the photo below. Three of the wafers are wrong-side up. Notice the darker, damp dough on the undersides? Even when the discs dry completely, the color can remain uneven.
Dry the wafers right-side up until the bottoms have crusted to maintain uniform, smooth colors. Test the underside of a wafer with your fingernail. If they’re dry enough to turn you won’t be able to scoop out slivers of dough.
The candy wafers below are not dry enough to turn!
When the bottoms are no longer damp, flip the discs or shuffle them randomly with a spatula to allow the backs to harden. And they will harden. These candy wafers dry rock hard, just like the originals. The complete drying process will take 24+ hours, depending on humidity.
When you gather up the dry wafers for storage, put them in a bowl or box loosely covered with a cloth. This allows any remaining dampness to evaporate.
The really great thing about these? Make them ahead of time — way ahead of time. Completely dry wafers last for months when stored in a cool dry place.